Anticlimax is a pisser isn't it? You get all keyed up and excited, slavering and twitchy with anticipation, then just as your enthusiasm reaches its zenith, when your hands are sweatier than a fat man's armpit and your brain buzzes like a jamjar full of wasps, the open-handed slap of disappointment impudently stings your cheek, leaving you red-faced and deflated. Yes, after months of excited anticipation of what could have been a MMO gamer's wet dream, we're left with this, a level 20 letdown, with a +5 anticlimax hit modifier, though admittedly with some glimmers of potential and twinkles of excellence lighting up the otherwise unspectacular world of The Matrix Online.
You start off, naturally, by creating your character, choosing from one of ten character types, each of which has its own strengths and weaknesses. Once you've chosen one - incredibly, you don't get to tweak your stats - you get to configure your look (basic) and sit through the tutorial (inadequate), before uploading your selected skills (vast and varied). After this, it's time to jack in.
The first thing that strikes you is just how messy it all looks. Forget the sleek, polished presentation of EverQuest II and World Of Warcraft, this is MMOGing at its most cluttered, ranging from the blocky, often overlapping text boxes to the unsightly shortcut bars, which look more placeholder than blockbuster.
The world of The Matrix is rather more impressive, sprawling excitingly in every direction, barren, green-tinted dilapidated cityscapes ripe for exploration. Along with the excellent soundtrack, it generates a genuine sense of eerie foreboding that perfectly captures the psychological uneasiness and fear so prevalent in the movie trilogy.
The gaming world is also seamless, with not a single loading screen to be seen as you move from outdoors to in, though The Matrix Online does currently suffer from some serious lag issues, despite many of the areas being surprisingly unpopulated.
Seeing as you've only just been awakened, your first few missions are confined to Zion operations - the human faction of freed former Matrix inmates and freeborn humans, intent on liberating as many subjugated minds as possible. Later on, you'll be approached by representatives of both the Machines and the Merovingian (the babbling Frenchman from the films), intent on recruiting you to their cause, a choice that ultimately decides how the storyline unravels in your own personal adventure.
Each mission starts off with a phone call to your chosen faction's contact, who dishes out your mission objectives. After this, it's just a simple case of following a marker to a building, going to the correct floor and completing your tasks - which range from right-clicking on the person you're looking for, then left-clicking on either Talk/Search/Unlock/Take/Give/Follow/Close Combat, depending on what your mission objectives are. Then it's off to the next location, where you do pretty much the same thing, before being awarded experience points if you succeed. And that, sadly, is about as thrilling and varied as most missions get early on.
Thankfully though, there's plenty more here to distract your attention than the often samey missions. Vendors ply their wares on every street corner, encouraging you to spend your Information Points (TMO's version of gold pieces) on a cornucopia of new clothes, apparel and weapons.
It's also testament to the allure of the subject matter that the majority of players seem keen to hook up and work together. This allows you to advance through the game's already clearly gripping storyline - centred around an uneasy peace between humans and machines - and level up at a much faster pace than when working alone.